What the Hell!

WHY HELL?  SOME EVEN SAY, “What the hell!”  or “Hell no.”  IS HELL DRACONIAN?  There’s a little town on Grande Cayman Island named Hell.  They have a Post Office there so that you can mail a card to friends and family from HELL.  Is there a real hell?

Will that teenager who lied about the scratch he made on the family car be in the same Hell-cell as the serial killer or crooked politician? How about the bookkeeper who pilfered $50 from her employer’s petty cash fund?  What if you could not wrap your mind around the idea of faith?

Hell is thrown around in daily conversation as in, “What the hell …?”  Or “That’s a hella-of-a  …  blah, blah.”  If you use hell as a cuss word will you go to Hell?

It is rather shocking that Pope Francis recently declared (although the Vatican scrambled all over themselves to explain), “those who do not repent and cannot therefore be forgiven disappear. There is no hell, there is the disappearance of sinful souls.” (CNS News, March 29,2018)  I’m confused.  Is it is or is it ain’t?  Although the Pope was not speaking ex cathedra, he has a lot of influence around the world.  What are we to believe?

In the Bible there are many different words or phrases for Hell, – the place of the damned.  They are the grave, Gehenna, Hades, Sheol, Lake of Fire, the Second Death and Eternal Damnation.  All of these contravene what the Pope seemed to be preaching.  Everything Jesus said had meaning – nothing casually said, or off the wall. Jesus said,

“Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.”

Matthew 3:10 (nlt)

Unbelief and violating the law of God are clearly two transgressions that will cause one to exist in hell forever and ever.  Is God through Christ violating his own basic tenant of love by assigning someone to hell forever and ever for getting mad at the preacher, or for hiding the cookie (so to speak), or stealing a shirt in the store or adultery?  What about the woman at the well or the woman caught in adultery?  Jesus uses the word hell in conjunction with adultery in Matthew 5:28, but widens the scope to anything that causes separation from God in vv. 29-30.  But it is interesting that he didn’t specifically use the word hell when listing some other behaviors such as divorce, violating an oath, eye for eye, etc.

What is the best way for the demons of hell to get us into hell?

ENOUGH! ENOUGH!  Is Hell real or not?  Will you go to Hell where you will burn in punishment forever and ever?  Some people will say that their life is a living Hell.  No way!  From Paul and Silas to the Apostle Peter who was crucified upside-down, to the Apostle Paul who was killed by Ceasar to the multiplied millions of Christians killed for their faith, Hell seemed like their experience on earth was like Hell.  But the Hell referred to in Scripture seems to be a place beyond human comprehension.

The place to clarify this is THE WORD of God, the Bible.

“‘But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.’”

Revelation 21:8 (niv)

II Peter 2:4 – “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment.”

Matthew 5:29 – It’s better for you to gouge out your own eye “than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”  Plus Matthew 5:30, 10:28, 18:9, 23:15, Mark 9:43, 47, 45 and Luke 12:5

James 3:6 – The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil …, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”

Matthew 5: 22 – “And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ Will be in danger of the fire of hell.”

Over and over, more times than space is written here, it is mentioned about going down to the realm of the dead, etc.

“Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.”       Revelation 20:15

THE REST OF THE STORY IS:

“And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation.”

Romans 5:9 (nlt)

MY YEARNING IS FOR THAT ETERNAL PLACE WHERE GOD IS!  How about you?

🎼🎶🎹

“Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling

Calling for you and for me

See on the portals He’s waiting and watching

Watching for you and for me

“Come home, come home

Ye who are weary come home

Earnestly, tenderly Jesus is calling

Calling, “O sinner come home”

“O for the wonderful love He has promised

Promised for you and for me

Though we have sinned He has mercy and pardon

Pardon for you and for me. “

(Will L. Thompson)

Degrees of Christian

HE SAID, “O I’M A CHRISTIAN ALRIGHT, but not a very good one.”  Is there a good, bad or ugly Christian?  I didn’t know that there were degrees in the Christian life; 51% Christian, 72% Christian – how ’bout the 80/20 rule?

The Pharisees had 613 laws and all of them were absolutely required. There were 365 negative commandments, which coincides with the number of days in the solar year, and the positive commandments number 248, a number ascribed to the number of bones and main organs in the human body.  For you folks out there in “churchy-land,” all 613 laws must be adhered to or “sorry, Charley, you ain’t got it!”

The way I understand it, you either is is or you ain’t ain’t!

“The law code started out as an excellent piece of work. … The law code, instead of being used to guide me, was used to seduce me. … The very command that was supposed to guide me into life was cleverly used to trip me up, throwing me headlong.”

Romans 7:8-11

“The law was without power, because the law was made weak by our sinful selves. But God did what the law could not do. HE SENT HIS OWN SON TO EARTH with the same human life that others use for sin. By sending his Son to be an offering for sin, God used a human life to destroy sin.”

Romans 8:3

Here’s what I would suggest: throw 100% of your life into the arms of Christ, then “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.”

2 Peter 3:18

Dancing Through the Tulips

IF ALL YOU NEED TO DO IS think positive thoughts, eat broccoli, associate with happy people, make good money, listen to uplifting sermons, live in an upperclass part of town, read possibility books, … and BTW, don’t forget to plant your “seed money” with some TV preacher in the hope of being healthy, wealthy and wise [and helping him buy his new jet airplane],   WHY THEN, MY DEAR FRIEND –

DO YOU NEED GOD?

I agree with those who say that it is not necessary to have God in your life to be rich and happy happy!  Believe it or not, lots of money may be, could be satisfying … to a degree.  Reading positive books and attending  inspirational and motivational seminars/sermons can be inspiritive. You can live next door to a family with 7 beautiful kids, live in a 12,000 square foot home and make a ton of money, and you can be happy as you drive up to the portico of a prominent church with thousands of attendees in your European built car, … and still be lost!

As Jesus said, “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mark 8:36)

You and I need God to give us liberty in our inner self.  All of us have probably known or heard of someone who had everything that this world could give, and yet were lost in their soul.  They spent their time with money, fame and fortune …; just before they committed suicide!  Many of those happy happy people turn to alcohol, drugs and prostitutes.  Hello out there!

Obviously, there are many who live their entire life dancing through the tulips.  You may be one of those.  Congratulations.  You may never need God to help you live an upper class life.

What happens thereafter …?

“Jesus said, ‘I AM the bread that gives life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’”

John 6:35 (ncv)

“‘Whoever drinks the water I give will never be thirsty. The water I give will become a spring of water gushing up inside that person, giving eternal life.’”

John 4:14 (ncv)

🎼🎶🎹

“All that I need He will always be,

All that I need till His face I see,

All that I need thro’ eternity.

Jesus is all I need.”

(James Rowe)

WINTER

ITS 3am. COLD.  FOGGY.  WINTER.  George Bush is gone at 94.  My good friend, Rev. Les Shelton, passed away at 78.  It’s winter.  Long ago, Willie Nelson wrote: “Ain’t it funny how time slips away.”  Yes, it’s winter.  It caught me off guard – before I knew what was happening.  It makes no difference that Willie also wrote,  “I’d trade all my tomorrows for just one yesterday,” because my future is as bright as the promises of God. As is the case with many of us, part of my past was painful.  If I had it to do over I would change a few things.  I shoulda, coulda, woulda. Isn’t that the case with most of us?

“But now the days grow short

I’m in the [winter] of the year

And now I think of my life as ‘vintage wine

from fine old kegs,

from the brim to the dregs.’”

Forgetting the past, you can

“Take this old world, but give me Jesus;

In His cross my trust shall be,

Til, with clearer, brighter vision,

Face to face my Lord I see.”

(Fanny Crosby)

It’s still winter.  It was just yesterday …; seems yesterday  I was so immature – high school, college, embarking in a fragile canoe called Life.  I held my son in loving arms as he looked at me with blue eyes.  I said to him, “My Son. I love you so much.” He looked at me as though he answered, “I love you, too.” Time caught me. Where did the years go?

And then in El Paso, living on a dirt road, two miles from Juarez, Mexico.  My precious daughter caught her breath, laboring as though she would die with Hyaline Membrane Disease.  No money to pay for hospital care. Would she be left to die?  Would it be winter in springtime?

The grunt work chased me.

As a breath of fresh air in springtime hope found me in the midst of my slog.  O my-my  yes!

I knew I was Blood-bought.   The One who had a plan, had a plan!

“Like the sunshine after rain,

Like a rest that follows pain,

Like a hope returned again,

Is the peace that Jesus gives.”

(Haldor Lillenas)

Springtime came in the form of an addition to my son and daughter.

Carole brought her two amazing little guys, 6 & 3, joining us making a family unit of six.  It was Spring!

Hopes and dreams anew. But where did the years go?

Yet in a way, it seems like eons ago, and I wonder where all the years went. I know that I lived them all. I have glimpses of how it was back then and of all my hopes and dreams. But, here it is… the winter of my life and it caught  me by surprise…How did I get here so fast? Where did the years go?  Where did my youth go?

I well remember seeing older people through the years and thinking that those old people were years away from me and that winter was so far off.  I could not fathom it or imagine what it would be like.

But, here it is, … my friends are retired and gray… they move slower and I see an older person now.  Some are in better and some worse shape than I …, but I see a change. They’re not like the ones I remember who were young and vibrant … but, like me, their age is beginning to show and we are now those older folks that we used to see and never thought we’d be.

Each day now, I find that finding my way to the shower takes concerted effort.   Taking a nap is not a treat anymore.. it’s mandatory because if I don’t on my own free will, I just fall asleep where I sit!

And so … now I enter into this new season of my life unprepared for all the aches and pains and the loss of strength and ability to go and do things that I wish I had done but never did!

Yes, I have regrets. There are things I wish I hadn’t done… things I should have done, but indeed, there are many things I’m happy to have done. It’s all in a lifetime.

If you’re not in your winter yet … let me remind you, it will be here faster than you think. Whatever you would like to accomplish in your life, please do it quickly! Don’t put things off too long! Life goes by quickly.  Do what you can today, as you can never be sure whether this is your winter or not! You have no promise that you will see all the seasons of your life ….  Squeeze the sweet juice of today. Say all the things you want your loved ones to remember, “and make the world go away.”

“‘I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.’”

John 14:27 (nlt)

 

CONQUERORS!

WHEN IN A FOOTBALL GAME, your team makes a touchdown in the first 30 seconds and goes on to win 47 to 3, you could rightly say that you were more than a conqueror.  The other team might have intercepted a pass, or tackled your quarterback, or pushed your team back to your 10 yard line, but your team never! gave! up!  Got it?!  47-3!

EL SHADDAI (The God who can!) has given you victory over those things that have torn your soul into pieces. He has healed, protected, harmonized and surrounded you with love.  He has vanquished your enemies!  You are MORE than a conqueror. Grab ahold of it WITH CONFIDENT FAITH.

“In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

Romans 8:37 (niv)

The Future of Religion

JUST SAYIN’ – There are a few articles addressing the topic, “THE FUTURE OF RELIGION.” If I am allowed to inject my insightful opinion – 😄😄😇 – (hold your seat): taking the position that religion will [of course I don’t agree] decline and ultimately disappear from the human stage 4 million years from now, the reasons, in my humble opinion,  would be:

1. Narcissism – worship of an objective deity will disappear because people will be too consumed asking,

“Whataboutme?!”

Whataboutme!?!”

2. Gradually, religion as it is now constituted will become more and more a shadow without substance.

3. Religion will morph into a quasi political philosophy. In Jesus’ day, His disciples were so busy following Jesus they didn’t have time to put their energy into clamoring for more political influence.

4. Then there will be “wars, wars, and rumors of wars.”

THERE ARE THOSE OF YOU WHO WITH KEEN ANTICIPATION DUTIFULLY READ MY MISSIVES, therefore, you know that I am of the opinion that Christianity is not a religion. It is a relationship. Those who know Him are believers, “born anew,” followers of Christ, The Way.

HOWEVER …

5. The more Christian preaching, teaching and music turn into a “whataboutme” entertainment venue, the more Christianity, church-goers, and followers will seek out Christian-oriented programs and services that tickle our fancy with a positive twist like our vodka martinis. 😳

“You’re going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food—catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. They’ll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages. But you —keep your eye on what you’re doing; accept the hard times along with the good; keep the Message alive; do a thorough job as God’s servant.”

2 Timothy 4:3-5  🎼🎶

“Oh! to be like Thee, blessed Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.

Oh! to be like Thee.

Oh! to be like Thee,

Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art;

Come in Thy sweetness, Come in Thy fullness;

Stamp Thine own image       deep on my heart.”

(Thomas O. Chisholm)

WHY?

ISN’T IT  INTERESTING THAT IN EVERY BOOK OF THE NEW TESTAMENT THAT the Apostle Paul wrote, with the exception of Hebrews (he may have not written Hebrews), thirteen (13) in all, for his introduction he uses the words GRACE and  PEACE! Is there a subliminal message there?

The definition of GRACE is:  “a manifestation of favor, especially by a superior:”  Synonyms are: forgiveness, charity, mercifulness, lenity, leniency, reprieve.  An allowance of time after a debt or bill has become payable granted to the debtor before suit can be brought against him or her or a penalty applied. Cessation of or freedom from any strife or dissension, freedom of the mind from annoyance, distraction, anxiety, an obsession, etc.; tranquillity; serenity, a state of tranquillity.”

In Theology GRACE may mean “the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God. The influence or spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them.”

The definition of PEACE is: God’s plan for your life is PEACE!  It is “a state of mutual harmony.  The end of hostilities.  a cessation from strife and dissention.”  If you don’t have it, you may justifiably ask why.  It was understandable for Jesus to cry “with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ which is, being interpreted, ‘My God, my God, WHY have you  forsaken me?’” (Mark 15:34 (kjv))

Jesus paid the penalty with his justifying Blood for our sin. SALVATION (1) TOOK PLACE AND (2) WAS TAKING PLACE!

Paul was the guy named Saul who went through the countryside murdering Christians.  The Lord saw fit to knock him off his horse, blinding him in order to give him GRACE and PEACE.  No wonder Paul spoke profusely of the GRACE and PEACE that Jesus gives!

“To all that be in Rome, … Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Romans 1:7 KJV

To those in Corinth he wrote: “Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”   1 Corinthians 1:3 KJV

“Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”   2 Corinthians 1:2

And to those in Galatia: “Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ,”  Galatians 1:3 KJV

Ephesus: “Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Ephesians 1:2 KJV

Philippi: “Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Philippians 1:2 KJV

“ … Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Colossians 1:2 KJV

“ … Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  1 Thessalonians 1:1 KJV

“Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”             2 Thessalonians 1:2 KJV

“Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.”  1 Timothy 1:2

“To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.”   2 Timothy 1:2

“To Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior.”  Titus 1:4 KJV

“Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Philemon 1:3 KJV

THEREFORE, THE GREAT GOD OF HEAVEN PLANNED FOR US TO HAVE GRACE AND PEACE THROUGH HIS JUSTIFYING BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST.

 

LOSING SOMEONE

LOSING SOMEONE FOREVER – MAKES NO DIFFERENCE IF IT IS BY DEATH OR DIVORCE – IS A HEART RENDING EXPERIENCE.  THE HURT IS ALWAYS THERE.  I think it was in 1935 when a Rabbi by the name of Harold Kushner wrote his book.  For many years, I misunderstood the title.   I thought it was “WHY Bad Things Happen To Good People.”  The correct title is “WHEN Bad Things Happen To Good People.”

Too often we misunderstand what God’s role is in the grand scheme of human existence.  There is nothing in the Bible (with proper understanding) that promises absolute, 100% camouflage in all circumstances. Jesus, God in the flesh said, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

Matthew 5:45 (niv)

Cherry picking a verse of the Bible here and there without context may leave the impression that good people will never have problems; never suffer.  Even Jesus suffered.  The Apostle Peter was crucified upside down.  Saint Paul suffered as few have and St. John was banned to the Island of Patmos.  Please carefully read the following :

“People who do what is right may have many problems, but the LORD will solve them all.”

Psalms 34:19 (ncv)

It may be that, as Elkhart Tolle wrote in A NEW EARTH:

“SUFFERING has a noble purpose: the evolution of consciousness and the burning up of the ego.”

“These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.”

Isaiah 66:2 (niv)

“So don’t worry, because I am with you. Don’t be afraid, because I am your God. I will make you strong and will help you; I will support you with my right hand that saves you.”

Isaiah 41:10 (ncv)

THROUGH FAITH THERE IS PEACE AND STRENGTH IN THE MIDST OF DESPAIR!

Where is your faith?  It may help to read Hebrews 11 again.

SCARED MELANCHOLY

SCRIPTURE

A CHRISTIAN LADY SAID, “WOW! WHAT WAS THAT? All of a sudden for no rhyme or reason, a distressed feeling came over me; a despondent, disconsolate, doleful feeling of fright and dejection, an awful down in the dumps feeling.”

Is she needing professional counseling?  Did this strange feeling of scared melancholy arise out of physical distress, maybe mental, emotional suffering?  Is there no one to help her?  I care, but I was a pastor of a church. Is there anyone out there to care?  It still begs an answer to her why!

Is it a learned helplessness in her part?

Psychology Today magazine quotes Thomas Plante: “The American Psychological Association’s yearly Stress in America study found that stress levels have never been higher, with most people pointing to the state of our national politics being the cause of their stress; it ranked higher than personal work and family troubles.  Extreme divisiveness, incivility, verbal aggression, and so forth seem to get worse by the day.  Worries about the future of our nation and society is on the minds of all. While anxiety and stress is commonplace, perhaps despondency is now setting in.”

Continuing Plante’s thoughts, he suggests a few things:

•Connect with others of like mind and do something, anything, for positive change.

•Embrace the notion that you can work to change what you can control and accept what you just can’t control.

•Reflect upon and evaluate your own values and ethical principles carefully and be sure to express them in civil ways to others.

•Minimize media exposure and inflammatory news that tends to escalate problems and worries.

•Be sure to spend time in relaxing activities such as being in nature, getting away from computer and smart phone screens, and engaging in healthy activities such as exercise and spending time with friends. [And stay away from Facebook!]

•Engage in satisfying service and volunteer activities where you feel that you might be able to make a difference in the lives of others.

•If you are spiritually or religiously engaged, increase your involvement with your spiritual/religious tradition and community.

•Get professional help if your stress doesn’t get better.  You can start with the Help Center at the American Psychological Association if you aren’t sure what direction to go to get assistance.

So, what do you think? What can you do to cope?

(Copyright 2018, Thomas G. Plante, PhD)

It is interesting that Plante suggests engaging with your spiritual community. The Psalmist encourages God’s people –

“Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues? Fix my eyes on God – soon I’ll be praising again. He puts a smile on my face. He’s my God!

“I took my troubles to the Lord; I cried out to him, and he answered my prayer.”

Psalms 120:1 (nlt)

“The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.”

Psalms 121:7-8 (nlt)  🎼🎶🎹

“Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear,

And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears;

Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see;

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

(Charles Gabriel)